I was so excited to start reading What She Ate by Laura Shapiro. I had seen a few stellar reviews and it since it focuses on two of my favorite things, strong women and food, it seemed an obvious winner.
The book tells the stories of six women and their individual relationships with food - cooking, baking, entertaining, guilty pleasures - the works! I was so looking forward to feeling like I was reading each of their diaries, but instead, the experience was more like struggling through an anthropology text book.
The book lacked the art of storytelling and felt more like a regurgitation of facts learned during library research sessions. As someone who genuinely loves food, I was hoping to find commonalities and kinship with these women, but the author just didn't take me there.
One of the women featured is the former first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt. Did you know that she was a terrible cook and hostess? In a funny excerpt about Earnest Hemingway visiting the White House, the book reads:
"The visit had been arranged by the journalist Martha Gellhorn, who was a good friend of Eleanor's and often stayed at overnight at the White House. As they waited for their flight in the Newark airport, Hemingway was surprised to see Gellhorn intently eating sandwiches, three of them, and asked her what on earth she was doing. She said everyone in Washington knew the rule: When you're invited to a meal at the White House, eat before you go."
There were a few of these gems sprinkled throughout the book. The chapter that is actually the most interesting is about Eva Braun, Adolf Hitler's mistress. She was feasting and toasting with champagne during one of the darkest times in our world's history. Her story is jarring and will definitely give you pause. As will the story of the last woman profiled, Helen Gurley Brown, the editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan. Brown's obsessions with being thin and attracting wealthy men will leave you wanting to throw the book across the room.
Now that I've wrapped this book, I'm giddy about starting a new one. I am going on vacation this weekend and I ordered Jennifer Egan's new book, Manhattan Beach, for the plane ride. I read A Visit From the Goon Squad back in 2011 and loved it.
Tell me, what are you reading? What should I add to my list?
*Image courtesy of TIME.com.